A Guide to Tacoma’s Chowders Just in Time For Winter

Ivar's Clam Chowder
Quick, familiar, and inexpensive: Clam chowder at Ivar's restaurants. Photo credit: Ily Goyanes.

In case you haven’t noticed, it has been pretty cold lately. In fact, winter has barely begun and we’ve already had snow. So what to do when it gets so cold that you “layer up” just to go to the mailbox? In Tacoma, you go for a bowl of hot, steamy, hearty chowder.

Fortunately, we are blessed enough to have several options available to us when it comes to that yummy, creamy goodness. In fact, since this is the Pacific Northwest, there are plenty of chain restaurants and mom and pop places serving all kinds of chowders, from the traditional clam to—you guessed it—salmon.

With so many choices, it may be hard to make a decision. In the interest of you, our readers, we did the dirty work for you and sampled chowders all around town, from South Tacoma to Ruston.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it—it was hard work. Imagine spending a couple of afternoons sampling chowder after delicious chowder… Okay, maybe it wasn’t that difficult after all. The point is that we did it all for you and made a list of what we think your best options for chowder are right here in town. Enjoy!

Infinite Soups

Infinite Soups Tacoma
Infinite Soups’ stews, soups, and chowders are infinitely better than most. Photo credit: Maria Valdes

Oh the humanity! Soups, chowders, stews! All kinds of soups! When a place is named after one food item, you better believe that it makes that item really, really well. Such is the case with Infinite Soups in Downtown Tacoma, which serves about a dozen (or two) different kinds of soups every day. Soups are categorized by creamy, non-creamy, vegetarian, and vegan, and all are made fresh each morning by the three owners. Now you’ll have to call in or visit its Facebook page to see if any chowders are being served on any given day, but if chowder is on the menu, you really cannot do much better. We’ve tried a vegetarian Mexican corn chowder that was rich and sumptuous and had us scraping our bowl as well as a chicken chowder with chunks of fresh carrot, potato, and chicken breast that was equally delicious. You really can’t go wrong with any of Infinite Soups’ menu items, plus, you can ask to sample any (or all) of the soups to help you decide.

Head over to Downtown Tacoma to find Infinite Soups at 445 Tacoma Avenue S.

Duke’s Chowder House

Duke's Chowder House
Duke’s chowders feature a lighter consistency than most, but heavy on flavor. Photo courtesy: Duke’s Chowder House.

A local favorite, Duke’s Chowder House has received all kinds of accolades, from Best Happy Hour (it is really, really good) to Best Chowder to Best Seafood Restaurant from King5. Duke’s clam chowder even won the Seattle Chowder Cook Off for three years straight. The word “chowder” is even part of this chain restaurant’s name. Unlike many chain restaurants however, the food and drinks at Duke’s are actually fantastic—this place deserves all the awards it has received. Now back to the chowder, or shall we say, chowders, plural? The clam chowder here is hands down the best—and not just in Tacoma. Out of towners, even those visiting us from New England, say the same. The seasoning is impeccable, but also Duke’s clam chowder is a bit light, thinner than the clumpy goo most of us are used to. You have the option to order it served in a delicious sourdough bread bowl, and you’ll save a few dollars if you get your chowder on during happy hour. If you feel like splurging, try Duke’s Lobster Mobster Pernod Chowder…it’s so rich that after eating it, you’ll feel like you just won a jackpot at Emerald Queen.

Duke’s has multiple locations in Washington, but in Tacoma, it’s located right on the water at 3327 Ruston Way.

Ivar’s Seafood Restaurant and Chowder

Ivar's Clam Chowder
Quick, familiar, and inexpensive: Clam chowder at Ivar’s restaurants. Photo credit: Ily Goyanes.

If you’re not in the mood for the fancy chowder from Duke’s and don’t want to risk that Infinite Soup is all sold out, you can always visit old reliable, aka Ivar’s Seafood Restaurant and Chowder for some easy-peasy, no need to get out of the car, inexpensive, traditional clam chowder. If you’re in your pajamas and taking full advantage of the drive-through window, you can still be a bit adventurous—try Ivar’s salmon chowder or crab chowder for something new from an old favorite.

You can find an Ivar’s in Tacoma at 1829 S. Mildred Street.

Northern Fish Company

Much like Ivar’s, Northern Fish Company made our list for cost and convenience, but unlike Ivar’s, you will definitely have to change out of your pajamas as Northern has no drive-through. But a great perk—you can slowly sip your soup as you take in the majestic view from the pier mere steps away at the company’s location in Ruston.

Enjoy chowder with a view at Northern Fish Company on 2201 Ruston Way.